Oscar Byrd poured the fourth drink and capped the whiskey bottle. He put it back in the liquor cabinet, then picked up a glass from his desk. His three favorite employees took the others and everyone took a seat. The curtains in his tenth story corner office were open. Even though it was raining sometimes it was nice just to be reminded there was a world outside of these walls.
Byrd sipped his drink then turned to the matter at hand. He looked at the two men and one woman sitting around the room. These were the employees he got along with best. They wanted to be his good side. And he made sure to keep them wanting to be on his good side.
“Trevor, how was England?”
“Cold, but friendly. Very friendly.” The blonde headed reporter from the Midwest exchanged a knowing smirk with the other man in the room. Susan, the lone female, just rolled her eyes. Oscar ignored him and spoke to the other guy.
“Jim, did you finish that story?”
“Not yet, it just lacks a little polish. I’ll have it in your inbox first thing in the morning.”
But what Byrd heard was I’ve got all my notes but I’ve been too busy drowning in booze to do anything with them. Tonight I’ll sober up and pull the stuff together. He’d expected this answer.
Jim Dannon could have been an ace reporter. He could pull something out of nothing. But a taste for liquor kept him back. But Oscar knew this and that’s why he’d put the article’s availability two days after Jim’s deadline. He knew Jim would be late. But that was okay. Jim knew Oscar helped him out. Jim was solidly in the man‘s debt.
Now he turned to Susan Burgher. Susan was his current favorite and had been for the past four years. Women had such a hard time breaking the glass ceiling he made always made certain the ones in his office got plenty of breaks. And of course, they were all very appreciative in all sorts of enjoyable ways.
Susan sat with her long legs crossed, sipping her whiskey and smiling at him. She wore her red hair long like he liked it. She smiled at him again and licked her bright red lips.
“You haven’t asked about me yet, Oscar.”
He leaned forward. “Alright Susan, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing good, but I’ll be doing better when I have an office in Columbia.”
He smiled and took another sip from his drink. This should be interesting. He leaned back in his chair.
“About that, Susan, you may have to wait.”
She set down her glass. “Oscar, I’ve waited. For four years I’ve done everything and anything for that job. What do you mean I’ll have to wait?”
Oh boy, this wasn’t going to be fun. “I promised the job to John Parker.”
There was an air of stunned silence around the room. Whoa. Nobody saw this coming. After a minute Jim was the first to speak.
“Was that a joke?”
“Did it sound like a joke? Look, Parker was lined up for the levee job. Then I shuffled it to you, Trevor.”
“Yeah, so? I need that cash for child support. He isn’t even married.”
“Well, since I chose not to share the child support angle with him he disagreed. Next time which one of us should explain that you need the money because you’ve got such a way with women in all the places you visit. Or is it the other way around?” Trevor was silent but unrepentant. Byrd went on, not looking at Susan. “Parker came in and laid his cards on the table. Said he’d give me the story of the century or quit.”
Susan shook her head. “And you promised him the job?”
“No. He bet the Columbia job that he could do it in a week.”
Jim drained his glass and set it down with a thump. “Boss, why would you agree to a thing like that?”
“Look, I need his story. Its about Twenty Twelve, how the Mayans said the world was ending next year. Its hot stuff. If he can pull it off— and he just might— I’ll get a top notch story I can sell for six figures at least.”
He tossed a folder onto his desk. “This is the piece of tabloid fodder I had him do to get the levee story. Not only did he turn it in early but he managed to dig up a interview on a urban legend. And I just sold that story to the History Channel for ten thousand dollars.”
The three looked at each other uncomfortably. Now Oscar drained his glass and looked around. “The three of you know where I stand. Parker may be a good reporter but his attitude stinks. He won’t learn his lesson.” He looked at Susan, whose arms were folded across her chest. “Susan, you know there’s no one I want in Columbia more than you.” She didn’t appear consoled.
He thought for a moment then made his move.
“Alright, here’s my cards. Parker’s a good reporter. There, I said it. Why is he a good reporter? He has to be to keep his job. Do you three have any idea the trash jobs I send his way? He has to work three times as hard as any of you. And he gets them done and in, usually early.”
Trevor spoke. “Fine. Give Parker the job. But you know he’s not going to be near as nice to you as we are?”
Susan leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. “Do you really want to give him that job? Columbia’s only an hour away.”
Byrd stood. “Of course I don’t want to give that job to that little jerk. Which is why the three of you are here.”
He tossed three manila envelopes on the desk. “Those are company credit cards. No limit. You all have your passports up to date?”
The three nodded as they stared at each other and back at him. Their boss was notoriously tight fisted. He never gave out any money he didn’t have to. They were on his good side and still had to argue for travel expenses. He went on. “Good. I’m assigning you to a story about Global Warming, due in one month. I don’t know where it’ll take you but let me give you a suggestion that John Parker would be a good source of information?”
They looked at each other again, still in shock. He let out a deep breath and smiled.
“Okay lets make it really simple. Yes, Parker is in line for the Columbia job if he gets a top notch story in within a week of this afternoon. And yes, he probably will. But he does have a deadline and a limited expense account.” He looked at Jim. “Which I took the liberty of reducing even further And I gave him an intern to baby-sit.”
Susan nodded. She stood, slowly, and walked over to his desk. “An intern? Is that supposed to help or hurt him?”
“This…intern is along with him for a … reason. I can’t discuss it but it won’t speed him up.”
Trevor understood where this was leading. “So, the credit cards are for…”
Susan sat down on her boss’ desk, wriggling herself till she was smack in the middle of it. “Okay, idiots, here’s what’s going on. We’re going to follow John Parker. He’s not Superman. His story is dependent on him getting the work done.” She tapped the credit card. “This means we can do anything, anywhere.”
Jim stood. “I see.” He grinned. “I like this idea.”
Trevor was still seated. “So, where do we start?”
Behind her Oscar stood and put a hand on each of her shoulders. She didn’t flinch. He stared at Trevor. “The Mayans were in Mexico, dead brain. Get your thinking cap on. He’ll start in the Yucatan.”
Susan smiled and rubbed one cheek on his hand. “No he won’t.”
Oscar leaned over her right shoulder. “What?”
She smiled and slowly licked her glossy red lips. “Its his sister’s birthday and he doesn’t miss it. Right now he’s hot-rodding up I-85 to Hickville, a.k.a., Brevard, North Carolina.
Oscar leaned closer. “And how do you know this?”
She smiled. “Know thy enemy.”
He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Yes, but how well.”
The woman giggled. “You’re jealous.” She slid off the desk. “Alright boys, we’ve got ground to cover. We’ll take my car and I’ll drive.”
Trevor finished his drink. “Why you?”
She finished hers and set it down. “Well, if I drive we can go faster since I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket.” Then she turned to look her boss in the eyes as she placed her hand on the door handle. “And secondly I want to have an office an hour and a half from this one.”